Have you ever been given a compliment that felt like an insult or an apology that implied YOU are the bad person? These are age-old tricks from the handbook of a manipulator. So, how to manipulate a manipulator?
No, we are not suggesting that you need to become manipulative and use wiles to get back on a manipulator. But when you are being subjected to someone’s cunning and devious ways, it is important to fight back and not let them take you for a ride.
Before we get into how to fight back against a manipulator, let’s have a quick look-see at what exactly manipulation is and why it’s so important for you to identify manipulative tactics.
What Is Manipulation and How Do Manipulators Work?
Manipulation is a psychological ploy to get what one wants at the expense of others. It often involves emotional exploitation and distortion of reality to influence and control another person. Manipulation tactics are employed to make you confused and question your decisions.
You become uncertain whether your thoughts or feelings are valid. And in this fog of mental distortion, you ultimately play into the hands of your manipulator.
Now, what you need to understand is manipulation might start in a very subtle manner, especially in relationships, and gradually amplify into full-blown emotional abuse and a dysfunctional everyday dynamic, and you end up feeling disoriented, guilty, and apologizing for things you have not done.
How do you manipulate someone?
People who like to change the narrative know very well how to manipulate somebody, so they use the following tools to gain power over their victims:
- Silent treatment
- Passive Aggression
How not to be manipulated? In most cases, it is pretty difficult to recognize manipulative tendencies and when you do, you are already knee-deep in an abusive setup.
In cases where you can detect the obvious signs of manipulation, like in your workplace, you are not sure how to get out of the situation without stirring the pot or ruffling some feathers on your way out.
Whether obvious or subtle, this kind of emotional abuse is undoubtedly damaging to your sense of self. Manipulation can destroy your relationships and career, undermine your confidence, and adversely affect your mental health and overall well-being.
This is why we have rounded up the most commonly used techniques used by manipulators along with psychological tricks for manipulating a manipulator.
Now, when we talk about tips on how to manipulate a manipulator, we focus on how to manage manipulative people by turning the tables and getting them the taste of their own medicine.
If you apply these techniques, you will be able to successfully disarm your manipulator and regain control of your life. So, how can you manipulate someone who’s already a master manipulator? How do you manipulate a manipulator?
How To Manipulate A Manipulator?
How do you manipulate a manipulator? You have to successfully counter their most trusted manipulation tactics.
1. The Trojan Horse
Are you familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse? This is a great example of manipulation done by the Greeks to win over the Trojans. The myth goes like this; the Greeks were fighting the Trojans for a long time but were not able to defeat them. Finally, they had an idea.
Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse hollow from inside and left it at the Gate of Troy as a peace offering. Now horses were sacred to the Trojans and thus they accepted the wooden horse as a symbol of their victory and took it inside their city gates.
What they didn’t know was that many Greek soldiers were hiding inside the horse. They came out during the night, killed Trojan guards, and opened the gate to let the rest of the Greek army men swarm in. The result? Massacre and subjugation of the Trojans.
What can you take away from this story? Be wary of sudden favors or gifts from someone with whom you don’t share a stable and healthy relationship. Manipulators do small favors and exploit the advantage of reciprocity by asking for a big one.
In a relationship, your partner can Love-bomb you with excessive attention and shower you with gifts, affection, and compliments to sweep you off your feet. Their motivation? To get you emotionally dependent on them or divert your attention from any abusive or negative aspect of their behavior.
How to manipulate someone who’s trying to manipulate you? If you suspect your partner is trying to influence your decisions with inappropriate gifts and you want to manipulate a manipulator in a relationship, you can:
- Refuse to accept their presents
- Spend time with friends and family members on a regular basis, so that you have other support systems
- Be firm on your principles and ethics
Read: 5 Types Of Codependency
2. Moving The Goal Post
Manipulators always move the goalpost so that you keep on striving to meet their demands. They can be a difficult boss or an in-law who keeps asking you to do better and do more in order to be in their good books. No matter how hard you try to make them happy, it is impossible to earn their validation.
They know how to emotionally manipulate someone very well. Realize that this is a psychological game to keep you chasing the carrot, the carrot being the manipulator’s love, affection, attention, or respect. Your manipulator gets an ego boost and gets their job done as well. So, quit playing their game.
- Point blank refuse what they want from you
- Or you can ask them for a favor against their every request.
- For instance, if they ask you to house-sit over the weekends, be quick to ask them to babysit for the next
Say you refuse to do the shift of your coworker who has a concert to go to and she jibes by saying, “You are so self-centered that you never help me out!” This is how she is taking a single incident out of context and using it to make you look bad.
As these people have mastered how to mentally manipulate someone, you come up with a response like “I hear what you are saying, but can’t remember when was the last time I bailed on you”. Don’t let them generalize one specific comment or action as an example of your general behavior.
Now intimidation as a manipulation technique can come in many shapes and forms. It can be:
- Cornering you and towering over you while talking to you
- Name-calling or yelling
- Repeatedly pestering you with a request
- Threats of self-harm or other negative consequences
- Offering you a limited window of time to respond to their question, offer, or request
- Exhibiting negative emotions through body language, like punching the wall
How to manipulate a manipulator? If you’re dealing with an emotional manipulator who is badgering you, use the broken record trick. Come up with a response that defends your rights and buys you some time. Stick to the response and keep repeating it every time until the manipulator gives up or you are ready with another response.
“Can you please do this report for me?”
“I would have loved to, but I am swamped with my own work.”
“You have to give me an answer before I take the other offer”
“This is a serious matter and I cannot give you an answer without considering all the aspects of the situation.”
And if you are facing a manipulator who has resorted to violence or aggression, you can
- Remove yourself from the situation and simply walk away without getting into an argument
- You might want to keep any documented proof of their threats or violent behavior
- Discuss the matter with others whom you trust
- Report them to the concerned authorities
- Ask them to continue the matter over text messages
Do you know how to manipulate a manipulator over text? If they cannot physically get close to you and intimidate you with their body language, you get an edge over them. Plus you get electronic records of their nasty behavior.
Gaslighting is when a manipulator lies to make you doubt your perception. They want you to believe their twisted version of reality, make you feel guilty, and ultimately do their bidding.
If your parents have unhealthy behavioral traits, they might guilt trip you by saying things like “You never come to visit us” or “You are an ungrateful child” to make them a priority over your job or your own family. A straying partner might say something like “I was not looking for this, but you have pushed me away from you.” You get the picture.
How to manipulate a manipulator? Ask yourself whether you identify with these allegations of being responsible for your partner straying or being ungrateful to your parents. These are imposed opinions that might not reflect your truth. It is crucial for you to listen to your own judgment and trust yourself.
Only then you can call out on the manipulative behavior and stand on your ground. Things that you can do:
- Write down in your journal the things that happened and as you remember them happening
- Talk to a friend or family member
- Share your experiences with a support group
6. Smear Campaign
A manipulator may run a smear campaign against you by badmouthing you to your loved ones. This is a preemptive strike to make you lose credibility even before you get a chance to narrate your ordeal.
Sometimes, this can take the form of Triangulation where a manipulator involves a third party in matters that concern only you two. Your abusive husband can get your best friend involved and convince them that he is in fact a wonderful life partner. Now you are up against two people instead of one.
It is not uncommon for a manipulator to turn you against someone you know so that they can shift the blame onto this other person.
How to manipulate a manipulator? You need to realize the other person is not your enemy, they are also being manipulated. Having said that, do the following to protect yourself:
- Define firm boundaries and do not let anyone interfere with your personal decisions
- You can also try reverse triangulation by opening up to another person who is not influenced by the manipulator and seeking their support
“No, I am not toxic, you are toxic!”
Projection is when a manipulator puts the blame on someone else, mostly their victim. They dodge the responsibility for their toxic behavior by attributing them to you. They simply project their negativity on you. If they are lying to you, they accuse you of being the lier, if they are abusive, they call you the abusive one, and so on.
How to manipulate a manipulator? Don’t own any of those projected crap. When feeling bombarded with negativities, ask yourself are you dealing with others’ emotions or yours? And most importantly, don’t project your values or empathy on your manipulator. By doing this you will only set yourself up for more disappointments.
8. Home Turf Advantage
Manipulative people often push you to meet them on their home turf, which is a physical space that is familiar to them and where they feel more comfortable exerting dominance over you. People in the business world often utilize the home court advantage to make negotiations go their way.
How to manipulate a manipulator? Insist on meeting in a neutral place to hold conversations. If you have to meet them in their chosen location, try to be there on time and get yourself comfortable. If you are meeting them in their home, ask for a glass of water and strike up a casual conversation to ease up the tension.
9. Exploiting Verbal Communication
Oftentimes manipulators use jargon and made-up statistics to confuse you. They can also speak very fast, keep on changing the topic, or ask you innumerable questions. All these are done in an attempt to disorient you, know your secrets, and gain an advantage over you.
How to manipulate a manipulator? When you are dealing with someone like this, do the following:
- If they are not revealing anything about themselves, don’t open up to them
- Ask them to repeat themselves
- Ask questions for more clarity
- Ask them to cite proof of their statements or give examples
- Say things like “Let’s not change the topic” and keep your control over the conversation
- Disengage from the pointless conversation and direct your attention to more productive things
Manipulators are experts at avoiding responsibility. When they feel that you are onto their manipulations, they adopt cunning strategies like:
- Giving you the silent treatment
- Passive Aggression
- Using sarcasm to crack jokes or make taunting remarks
- Avoiding your calls, texts, or emails
Through stonewalling tactics like these, manipulators want to rile you up, divert your attention, make you wait for a response, make you uncertain, and presume authority over you.
By avoiding your inquiries the manipulator leverages silence to make you desperate so that you will accept any crumb of explanation that you are offered.
How to manipulate a manipulator? If you have tried to communicate with the manipulator in a reasonable way and did everything to reach out to them, it is time to stop chasing them for an answer or a supposed closure. Your dignity is more important than that!
How to manipulate a manipulator? Some more helpful tips:
- Always make eye contact when speaking to a manipulator
- Learn to say no more often
- Take their name while addressing them
- Keep physical distance from them
- Imagine a brick wall between you and them and don’t internalize their comments
The Only Way To Win This Game Is By Quitting
You can apply the above-mentioned ways to manipulate a manipulator and end this psychological power play. At the end of the day, it’s not about how to be manipulative or how to be a master manipulator. You have to believe in yourself, protect yourself from their manipulative tactics, and refuse to play their game.
If you are wondering how to manipulate a manipulator in a relationship or at work, please know that identifying their manipulative tactics will be half the battle won.